We were sitting, anxious, preparing for the daunting 60 shot standing regional competition that was about to fill up over an hour of our lives. In the most expensive range set up I had ever seen, high tech equipment and range gear. Trying desperately to focus but not stress, slow our heart rate but not feel tired, stretch but not to move too much. Amidst this is when I looked up to see a large N.R.A. promotion sign.
The N.R.A. or National Rifle Association is one of the largest gun lobbying groups in the U.S. with over 5 million members. They are known for their motto of ‘the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun’. The N.R.A. is against common sense gun laws that the majority of Americans support. In fact, 72% of N.R.A. members support expanded background checks.
The list of N.R.A. controversies are long, such as wanting to pull out of the Arms Trade Treaty which regulates the export of weapons to countries where they could be used to infringe on human rights. The N.R.A. has actively fought laws that would prevent the exportation of illegal arms to Mexico, when 70% of guns in Mexico can be traced back to the United States. The N.R.A. complains about immigration, however they are still fueling the violence that forces people to flee.
The N.R.A. has been donating money and equipment to JROTC programs for their air rifle teams. Many school’s JROTC programs have a marksmanship team where they compete with air rifles, shooting at targets in three positions: standing, kneeling, and prone. It focuses on accuracy, alertness, focus, and breath control. Rifle teams do not promote guns or the deregulation of them, so why was it ever acceptable for these teams to willingly take support from a partisan and polarizing organization? How has this organization been given a platform to influence American youth through their school?
N.R.A. donations to JROTC programs can be in the form of money or equipment such as off-hand stands (used to rest the rifle and hold pellets), scopes, updated shooting ranges, and other gear. These donations are generally in the form of equipment. The Coloradan explains that “Nationally, about $1.3 million was provided as cash, while $6 million was provided through equipment, training and other costs.” According to the Associated Press, more than $7 million in grants have been given to hundreds of U.S. schools in recent years from the N.R.A.
In Florida, after a gunman killed 17 people on February 14, 2018. Florida’s Broward County school district stopped allowing programs to receive N.R.A. funding as the gunman was on the school's rifle team which had been given funds from the N.R.A. Soon after, Denver followed by banning N.R.A. grants as well. However, officials in other districts of Colorado don’t plan to do the same. In Indiana Donna Corbett, a Democrat on the school board, explained how she had not heard about $65,000 that went to a JROTC program at one of the high schools. Corbett explains her conflicting feelings saying “I am not a big N.R.A. fan, but I also realize that ROTC is a good program,”. She said “I’m not sure I would be willing to pull it to the detriment of the kids and their programs.”
As someone in East’s rifle team, I was appalled to learn that other schools had been given N.R.A. grants. Before even learning this was fairly commonplace, I was at a competition in Colorado Springs when I glanced up to see a massive poster with the N.R.A. name and logo. Shameless promotion of an organization I despised, was now being promoted in an activity I participate in. Being a school activity, I was surprised by this, enough to even take a photo of the poster. At East’s program we learn discipline, breath control, and extreme caution whenever handling a rifle, even when the ones we use only shoot pellets using compressed air. I don't think I could continue to be in something if it was being supported by such a destructive organization. Thankfully, Denver could not have this either. “Denver JROTC programs did accept N.R.A. grants that provided equipment utilized in conducting air rifle marksmanship training in previous years,” DPS spokeswoman Alex Renteria explains in an email. George Washington had already received a total of over $11,000 in N.R.A. grants and Thomas Jefferson has been given $5,400 since 2013. Organizations spreading hate and dangerous thinking should not be allowed in our schools, JROTC or not.